15 February 2011

A Dual Centennial for Northwest Indiana's Carpatho-Rusyns

Two churches begun by Rusyn immigrants who originally settled in Gary, Ind., are marking their centennials this year.

Both churches -- Protection of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church and St. Michael's Byzantine Catholic Church --- have long ago moved from their original urban locations to the suburban community of Merrillville.

Gary was an attractive destination for Rusyns in the early 20th Century
A third Rusyn church, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, also originated in Gary in 1935 and has since followed the migration of our people and is located in Hobart.

Let's start what will be a continuing look at the Dual Centennial with some history of the church popularly known as St. Mary's.

"Orthodox America 1794-1976" offers this:

"The steel industry had moved into the area just east of Chicago on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Slavs of various origins settled there around 1907 and in 1911, a group of them gathered at the home of Kondrat and Anna Krenitsky to organize and petition Archbishop Platon for a parish. Present at the meeting were Father Vladimir Alexandrov and Father John Gratson of Chicago. Father Jacob Korchinsky was assigned as the temporary pastor of the new church."

While there may have been Slavs of "various origins," the core of the congregation was made up of  Lemko Rusyns from modern-day Poland.

"On Nov. 12, 1911, Father Benjamin Kedrovsky arrived in Gary to assume duties as the permanent pastor of the new church. Father Kedrovsky remained there until his death in November 1968, having led the parish for 57 years. During his tenure, three church buildings were erected to serve the growing needs of the congregation."

A history of the parish written for St. Mary's 50th anniversary (and graciously shared with us by John Schweich) notes that "among the first... Slavs who set foot in the area were Mr. Michael Frentzko and Mr. Efrem Shevcik. They arrived on March 18, 1907. These two young men were also attracted by this 'Magic City' which in a span of two years boasted 10,000  inhabitants, and where the world's greatest steel mills began gradually silhouetting the skyline."

They brought their families from Chicago and made Gary their home.

As said earlier, the parish was organized in 1911. The first formal meeting -- Sept. 28, 1911 -- featured members of the clergy and eight representatives of the new congregation: Peter Romanyak, Michael Frentzko, Vasil Misko, Efrem Shevcik, Vasil Krochta, Kondrat Krenitsky, John Shevtchuk, and Timofey Lescisin.

Church records quoted in the anniversary history show the first marriages recorded Nov. 12, 1911 were Radion Petrovich and Ludmilla Panjovich, and Simeon Pysh and Paraskeva Zrolka. On Nov. 26, Lubov Belkoff was baptized. On the same day, memorial services were held for infant Vladimir Shevcik.


  1. I have histories of the Rusyn churches in East Chicago IN if there is interest.